Canterbury Road has some oddball shop finds. There’s the specialist sheepskin carseat covers store, with the most OTT animated light signage that almost makes sheepskin covers seem exciting. There’s also the no-name petrol station, with an attached kebab store that seems to go off every weekend night. Then there’s PAZAR Food Collective, the culinary oasis in the middle of an otherwise ho-hum traffic artery.
Word has spread fast. At 6pm on a Saturday night, this place is heaving with happy families, feasting on banquets of mod-Turkish-Mexican dishes. Young and old perch themselves on stools—it’s all backless chairs here—around the large communal steel tables. It’s a tableau of crumbling postures and excited appetites.
Casting my eyes of the paper menu/order sheet, I breathe a sigh of relief. There’s no Frankenstein taco-pide concoctions here. The focus is on share plates of Middle Eastern dishes, tweaked with a Mexican ingredient here and there.
The dips are a stand-out. They’re made with texture and colour in mind, which is why the roast beetroot with feta goes down so well. The hommus is delightfully nutty, served with spiced and well-dressed “chic peas”. The smoked labne is my favourite, hands-down. It’s smooth, creamy, and savoury, topped with crushed pistachios and chilli oil. My dining companion charms her way into scoring a complimentary extra serve, a skill I’ve got to learn, once I figure out how to imitate her luscious head of mermaid hair.
I’m a sucker for ceviche of all varieties, so I jump for joy when I spy scallop aguachile on the menu, scallop being my favourite of all the bivalve molluscs (potential Dolly mag quiz: which bi-valve mollusc are you?). I try to ignore the cold enamel plate upon which it’s served, and concentrate on the flavours at hand—thin discs of white scallop flesh, doused in a citrus and tequila dressing. A charred mandarin, squeezed over the top, lends a sticky, jammy goodness. The dish lacking the chilli kick of traditional aguachile, but is otherwise silky and fresh, and I loathe sharing it around the table. I want it all.
The word ‘succulent’ is only ever used to describe two things—cacti, and chicken. The harissa roast chicken is uber-juicy, and pairs so well with the tang of sumac, and more of that nutty hommus. But the star of the roasted meats roadshow is the smoked lamb. We score the prized lamb cutlet rack, proving once and for all that it pays to be nice to your waiter. This is the lamb of your dreams—tender but still-firm meat, studded with braised apricots, and leaving a lingering scent of cinnamon and orange blossom. Don’t forget the charred crunchy bits of meat, either.
Pides are a cut above your usual suburban options—try the spinach with oaxacan cheese. And if you can fit it in (you always can), the dessert churro sandwiches with Turkish mastic ice cream are good bet.
As a veteran resident of the Canterbury City Council area, I can assure you inner city dwellers that yes, there are suburbs that exist to the west of Marrickville; and no, it’s not that far from the city; and yes, you should visit PAZAR again and again, each time with a bigger throng of friends, and work through their excellent and sizeable menu. And as you troop out into the night, with trucks and motorbikes thundering past, and contemplate the existence of the adjacent shopfront promising ‘Advanced Souvlaki’, thank your lucky stars that there’s a delicious island to visit among the Canterbury Road oddity.
Image credit: Daryl Kong